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. 2014 Jun;34(6):619-29.
doi: 10.1093/treephys/tpu045. Epub 2014 Jun 26.

Leaf-to-branch Scaling of C-gain in Field-Grown Almond Trees Under Different Soil Moisture Regimes

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Leaf-to-branch Scaling of C-gain in Field-Grown Almond Trees Under Different Soil Moisture Regimes

Gregorio Egea et al. Tree Physiol. .

Abstract

Branch/tree-level measurements of carbon (C)-acquisition provide an integration of the physical and biological processes driving the C gain of all individual leaves. Most research dealing with the interacting effects of high-irradiance environments and soil-induced water stress on the C-gain of fruit tree species has focused on leaf-level measurements. The C-gain of both sun-exposed leaves and branches of adult almond trees growing in a semi-arid climate was investigated to determine the respective costs of structural and biochemical/physiological protective mechanisms involved in the behaviour at branch scale. Measurements were performed on well-watered (fully irrigated, FI) and drought-stressed (deficit irrigated, DI) trees. Leaf-to-branch scaling for net CO2 assimilation was quantified by a global scaling factor (fg), defined as the product of two specific scaling factors: (i) a structural scaling factor (fs), determined under well-watered conditions, mainly involving leaf mutual shading; and (ii) a water stress scaling factor (fws,b) involving the limitations in C-acquisition due to soil water deficit. The contribution of structural mechanisms to limiting branch net C-gain was high (mean fs ∼0.33) and close to the projected-to-total leaf area ratio of almond branches (ε = 0.31), while the contribution of water stress mechanisms was moderate (mean fws,b ∼0.85), thus supplying an fg ranging between 0.25 and 0.33 with slightly higher values for FI trees with respect to DI trees. These results suggest that the almond tree (a drought-tolerant species) has acquired mechanisms of defensive strategy (survival) mainly based on a specific branch architectural design. This strategy allows the potential for C-gain to be preserved at branch scale under a large range of soil water deficits. In other words, almond tree branches exhibit an architecture that is suboptimal for C-acquisition under well-watered conditions, but remarkably efficient to counteract the impact of DI and drought events.

Keywords: Prunus dulcis; carbon balance; deficit irrigation; photosynthesis; productivity; water stress.

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